How To Play the Easiest Guitar Songs in the World

Young joyful african american man enjoying playing guitar at home while sitting on sofa in living room, learning musical instrument, smiling mixed race musician or singer singing new song single

Key Points

  • By learning a few songs that use the same chords, a beginner guitarist makes exponential progress in both hand skills and ear training.

  • The easiest guitar songs in the world are simple and memorable.

  • The easiest guitar songs have a universality to them that transcends time and even language.

  • An important step in unlocking a unique style is for beginning guitarists to take the time to learn some of the easiest guitar songs in the world and develop a fundamental understanding of basic chords.

Every guitarist remembers the first song they learned for the rest of their life. Learning some of the easiest guitar songs in the world is an integral process of the beginning phase of developing guitar skills.

The easiest guitar songs in the world have straightforward chord structures, simple melodies, and uncomplicated rhythms. Don't mistake these easy songs for simplistic or uncomplicated — just a few chords together make for a classic hit. The most often used key in popular music is C major; G major is a close second in popularity.

Learning how to play songs fine-tunes your ears, forms muscle memory in your hands, and forges the connection between the two hemispheres of your brain. Eventually, you'll recognize common chord progressions that lay the foundation for modern pop music. With practice, you'll hear a song, pick up a guitar, and figure out how to play what you just heard.

"Three Little Birds" – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Bob Marley and the Wailers' classic reggae track "Three Little Birds" off their 1977 album, Exodus. Listening to it is better than an hour of therapy; pop it on during a bad day and it makes that day somewhat better.

Singing / Don't worry about a thing / Cause every little thing gonna be alright

In the key of A major, "Three Little Birds" uses three chords: A, D and E. Marley plays them higher on the neck as syncopated reggae triads with the accent on the second and fourth beat of every measure, not as open chords strummed on every beat. Strum on the upbeat.

Marley wrote this song while at his second home on Hope Road in London. Three canaries perched on his front stoop frequently. The song was not released as a single until 1980 but it's now up there in the pantheon of "Don't Worry Be Happy," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and "Hakuna Matata" in the ranks of optimistic anthems.

Use a clean, bright guitar tone with a tiny bit of reverb to capture the essential reggae guitar sound.

The verse follows a I-V-IV resolve structure starting on the A major, then up to E major, down to D major, and back down to A.

The chorus is more straightforward:


Singing don't worry about a thing cause

D | A

Every little thing gonna be alright…

"Dreaming" – Blondie

A new wave hit from 1979, "Dreaming" kicks off Blondie's Eat to the Beat. At 161 beats per minute and in the key of D, "Dreaming" is a great exercise for learning to change chords seamlessly and on the beat. It's also a solid song from which to learn a bit of lead guitar work.

An ode to New York City life on the lower east side in the late 70s, "Dreaming" is a four-chord pop gem. The chords used are all "cowboy chords" — chords played in open position using three fingers or less.

The introduction is D to G, with the bass guitar filling in the embellishments. Then the electric guitar teases the vocal melody on the B string, with a bit of chorus or flanger effect:

E ————————————————–

B ——–2-slide-3–3—-2-slide-3—5–3——–

G ————————————————–

D ————————————————–

A ————————————————–

E ————————————————–

The verse starts on D, "When I met you in the restaurant" G

Repeat on the next line.

Leading to the:

D | A

You asked me what's my pleasure


A movie or a measure


I'll have a cup of tea


And tell you of my dreaming

The chorus is D to G, similar to the verse.

D | G

Dreaming, dreaming is free

The bridge:


Beat feet, walking a two-mile


Meet me, meet me at the turnstile

D | A

Never met him, I'll never forget him


"Blitzkrieg Bop" – The Ramones

"Blitzkrieg Bop," the punk anthem by The Ramones, is an easy one, though it has a fast tempo. Clocked at 177 beats per minute, "Blitzkrieg Bop" thumps with the drums, bass, and guitar in synch like a galloping herd of horses. Using only four power chords, A5, D5, E5, and B5, this song is fun to play, energizing, and is good calisthenics for both your strumming and picking hands.

"Blitzkrieg Bop" teaches you to make quick chord changes cleanly and on the beat. It's a simple but razor-sharp exercise in eighth-note downstrumming. Johnny Ramone, the band's guitarist, famously only used down strums to achieve his bombastic sound. If you miss the timing of a chord change, you hurry up to get on time again or drop out for a beat to catch up and keep the consistent rhythm from derailing.

Hey ho, let's go!

"Down Under" – Men at Work

This unforgettable song from the great Australian pop-rock band Men at Work features a lead pan flute riff. Written in the key of B minor, and recorded in a tight, sparse way that allows lots of experimentation of guitar picking styles, "Down Under" lends itself to multiple interpretations.

Whether you strum open chords, play syncopated triads, or use lead arpeggios: If you get the rhythm down right, it sounds awesome.

The verse uses a reverse-turnaround structure:

Bm | A | Bm | G A|

Travelin' in a fried-out Kombi…

The chorus has the same rhythm but starts on the D:

D | A | Bm | G A|

Do you come from the land down under?

"Love Me Do" – The Beatles

John, Paul, George, and Ringo made some of the most memorable songs in modern history as The Beatles. Their earlier catalog is easier to learn and play than most of their post-Rubber Soul songs.

"Love Me Do," though not the best of their earlier songs, is the easiest to learn. The song employs just three chords: G, C, and D. The lyrics of each verse repeat the first verse verbatim–so if you learn one verse you learn them all. The song really has no defined chorus; the structure sort of segues into a chorus for one line, then repeats.


Love, love me do


You know I love you


I'll always be true


So please please, love me do

Then comes the bridge part:


Someone to love, somebody new


Someone to love, someone like you

If you master the guitar strumming and the lyrics and want to embellish the song like on The Beatles' recording, get yourself a harmonica in the key of G.

"Born in the USA" – Bruce Springsteen

Two chords: B and E. The whole song is different variations of B to E and E to B.

The B major chord is a barre chord; barre chords are sometimes difficult for young players with small hands but they're crucial because they're easily movable. You fret the root note on the 5th string with your index finger and use your ring finger to barre across the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings:

E –x–

B –4–

G –4–

D –4–

A –2–

E –x–

To faithfully replicate the lead synthesizer hook riff on electric guitar, try using a synth guitar pedal–Moog and Electro-Harmonix make the best synthesizer guitar pedals.

Springsteen's 1984 eponymous song from the album Born in the USA is a sympathetic look at an American Vietnam War veteran trying to find his way after coming home, not the rah rah! USA! USA! chant that Ronald Reagan made it into by appropriating it for his presidential campaign, against the wishes of Springsteen.

"American Girl" – Tom Petty

"American Girl," by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, an intermediate-beginner song, mostly utilizes chords strictly in the key of D major, except for the E7 in the verse.

A masterpiece of American 70's soulful rock with the best intro built completely upon one note, "American Girl" follows the — verse, pre-chorus, chorus, repeat — formula to a tee. Petty gives a shoutout to his Florida roots with the lyric couplet "Yeah she could hear the cars roll by/Out on 441 like the waves crashing on the beach."

Then comes the little instrument breakdown followed by an extended outro, which sounds hard to perform on the first listen but easily replicated by following the mode changes.

The outro solo sticks to the G Lydian mode, A Mixolydian mode, and D Ionian mode blueprint outlined by the chords.

"Something in the Way" – Nirvana

The last listed track on 1991's Nevermind (discounting "Endless, Nameless), "Something in the Way" haunts. In Drop D tuning, with the low E string tuned down a whole step to D, "Something in the Way" paints a picture of longing and teenage homelessness.

With an accompanying cello track adding an understated symphonic element to the song, "Something in the Way" plays out as a lovely ballad despite its forlornness. The song is an exercise in restraint, using only two chords but employing them in different voicings for the verse and chorus. Once you learn the chords, play the song with a metronome to get the strumming pattern perfected.

Learn this on an acoustic guitar first to get the hang of it. If you want to do a soft/loud dynamic change for the verse and chorus, play the verse on a clean electric guitar and turn up the distortion for the chorus.

The introduction and verse are the same:

E —————————————————

B —————————————————

G —————————————————

D —————————————————

A —-4—-4—4–4—0—0–0–0—————–

D —-4—-4—4–4—0—0–0–0—————–

F#5 | D5

Underneath the bridge…

The chorus uses essentially the same chords:

E ——————————————————

B ———————3—-3–3–3——————-

G —-4—-4–4–4—2—-2–2–2——————–

D —-4—-4–4–4—0—-0–0–0——————-

A —-4—-4–4–4—0—-0–0–0——————-

D —-4—-4–4–4—0—-0–0–0——————-

F#sus4 | D5 (open)

Something in the way…

The second verse repeats the first verse–note for note and word for word. Probably the easiest song to play in this compendium.

"With or Without You" – U2

A four-chord power ballad from Ireland's post-punk pop-rock poet laureates, "With or Without You" is a pulsing, 5 A.M reverie. The Edge, U2's guitarist, uses reverb and digital delay effects to achieve that stadium-filling, echoing guitar sound.

The introduction of drums and synthesizer just hangs there for two measures before the bass riff kicks in.

G ——————————————————————————–

D ——————————————————————————–

A —-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5———————————————————-

E ———————–5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3–

During the first verse, The Edge utilizes a lot of volume swells to fill the sonic space. A volume swell is where you initially have the volume knob on your electric guitar turned down to zero; you play a note or a chord and keep it fretted to let it ring, then turn up the volume knob with your picking hand. The resulting sound is a ghost-like swell that sounds kind of like a keyboard synthesizer.

Or buy a volume pedal that operates like a wah-wah pedal — with the pedal cocked all the way back the volume is mute, and with the toe of the pedal all the way down the volume is full output. A volume pedal is a very cool and underutilized effect that replicates everything from a symphonic instrument to an organ.

The whole song follows the implied chords of the bass riff: D | A | Bm | G

"Heroin" – The Velvet Underground

"Heroin," by The Velvet Underground, is D to G throughout the whole song, with the guitar tuned down one half-step. A seven-minute avant-garde rock masterpiece of Db to Gb. From the droning arpeggios to the all-out chaos of the climax with the guitar and electric viola cascading in waves of feedback, this song is hypnotic and visceral.

The Velvet Underground's debut album, The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967), produced by Andy Warhol, allowed the band to experiment with sound as colors and songs as works of art. Though commercially unsuccessful, the album did inspire many future artists to push the idea of what a song is, both with its music and lyrics.

The tempo of "Heroin" starts off slow — almost an adagio — in the intro and verse, then increases to a fast moderato for the chorus. It slows back down for the second verse and accelerates again into the next chorus. The cyclical speeding up and slowing down of tempos continues throughout the song.

Play the chords as ringing arpeggios throughout the verse and strum them in full for the chorus.

The song has no consistent drumming, only sporadic percussive bursts performed on a hand drum. It takes some getting used to the fluctuation of tempo but it is a good exercise for timing and ways to emphasize the same two chords in different ways.

"Wildest Dreams" – Taylor Swift

"Wildest Dreams," by Taylor Swift, composed in the key of G#, is a good case study of how to use chords to propel the song through its changes.

Swift plays standard open chords like C and Em and D, but with a capo at the first fret, raising everything by a half step. Though you are playing chords in the key of G, because you have a capo on the first fret, they become G#.

Chords in the key of G:

G | Am | Bm | C | D | Em | F#dim

"Wildest Dreams" employs five of the seven chords of the G major scale, the second most popular scale in western music. A strong single from Swift's megahit album 1989, "Wildest Dreams" harkens back to her signature Nashville country-pop style that made her a superstar.

Throughout the verses, choruses, and bridge, chord changes occur to accompany Swift's vocal melodies. Reading the chord chart, listening to the song, and then playing along becomes a fluid process, thanks to the song's simple structure.

Playing Guitar on Easy Street

The easiest guitar songs in the world are often the most powerful. Simple does not mean simplistic or banal — on the contrary, it's their simplicity and accessibility that makes them recognizable and powerful. Like a castle made of legos, each building block is simple but as a whole, it creates a unique structure.

Learning how to play a great song that is also easy to play opens the doors of insight into how commonality and universality are mutually exclusive. Most great but easy songs focus on common themes: love, travel, loss, the pursuit of pleasure, and existential pondering.

70 percent of popular songs use the chords featured in the songs included in this article. Once you begin to recognize the basic chord progressions in popular songs, you'll start to recognize and hear them everywhere. If you master these songs you're well on your way to building a solid foundation of guitar theory.

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